Queen Elizabeth II is the most famous woman on the planet. Even the prime minister of Great Britain gets a little shaky around her.
Last night’s ITV documentary, Our Queen, offered an unprecedented glimpse into David Cameron’s weekly meetings with her majesty, which are usually strictly confidential.
At Buckingham Palace in 2012, Cameron stood at the door as his arrival was announced, before quickly bowing his head and taking a seat beside the fireplace.
The purpose of these meetings is for Cameron to brief the Queen on the most important political issues of the day, so naturally he opened with his recent visit to a tractor factory in Basildon. He was quickly moved on to discuss the Eurozone crisis and the Greek riots.
Unfortunately, that two-minute segment was one of the few items of real interest within the two-hour documentary, which followed the Queen to ceremonies, meet-and-greets and dinners throughout the year of her Diamond Jubilee.
It is impossible to imagine that anyone not suffering from acute amnesia could not remember most of these events. They were only last year, after all, and we had them plastered across our television screens on a daily basis.
While the audience watched familiar footage of the river pageant, for example, the narrator helpfully told how it had rained that day. Later, during shots of the Jubilee concert, we learned that “Prince Philip is suffering from a bladder infection.”
It was disappointing given that the show had billed itself as an exclusive insight into the Queen and her role during 2012.
There was no interview footage of the Queen herself, of course, although we were treated to some comic interactions between her and others.
At one point she was seen inspecting the Buckingham Palace ballroom ahead of a state banquet. She joked with staff about a secret microphone, saying: “Where have you hidden it this time?”
She went on to helpfully suggest the pineapples be moved further towards the centre of the table, so as not to interfere with the diners (who says we’ve no need for a monarch?), but after straightening a plate she declared the set-up ‘grand’.
In another amusing scene, as the Queen posed for a group photo with a miserable-looking bunch of foreign royals, she joked: “Aren’t you supposed to be enjoying this lunch?”
As always, our nation’s favourite lady came across as charming and delightful, but it remained maddening to see the extravagance and expense that accompany these endless functions.
Forget the dining plates gilded with gold; the number of staff needed just to straighten the chairs and measure their distance from the table was astounding. A trainee was even brought in to royally stamp the butter.
Another red-hot exclusive brought to us by the programme makers was that the Queen does not actually remember the name of everyone she meets (staggering, given we were told she has personally greeted an estimated four million people in her lifetime).
Instead, at large functions guests are invited to enter the room in single file, in a pre-determined order. As each approaches, an aide hands the Queen a card detailing their name and the organisation they represent.
Still, she is not the one who feels awkward at such events. The Countess of Wessex told at one point of her embarrassment at holding up the Queen’s state banquet.
She said: “It’s terrifying, because you just see a wall of people and you then think, ‘Oh help. I’ve got to find my chair.’
“I have to say, on more than one occasion I’ve managed to sit in the wrong seat.”